Before starting this piece, let me first admit that I am a huge admirer of Mushfiqur Rahim’s honesty. In my professional career, I have seen how international captains tend to avoid tough questions in press meets. But not Mushfiqur. As a leader, the Bangladesh Test skipper never hides behind diplomatic answers. He always tries to explain his point of view thoroughly and while doing so not always does he remain politically correct.
However, it seems one such honest confession during the ongoing tour of South Africa might end his captaincy career.
In Bangladesh’s 17 years of Test history, Mushfiqur by far is their best Test captain, at least statistically. Seven out of 10 Test victories of the 'Tigers' in the longest format have come during his tenure. In fact, among all the current Test captains in the cricketing world, Mushfiqur is the senior-most as he has been leading the Test team since October 2011.
Having been trusted with the responsibility of captaining a struggling team at the age of 24, Mushfiqur has done a decent job, despite not being a natural leader and he deserves due credit. Furthermore, he has kept wickets for the most part of his leadership tenure as well as taken the bulk of responsibilities in the batting department for being the most dependable batsman of the Bangladesh Test side.
So, life indeed hasn't been easy for the soft-spoken Bogra-born boy, who made his Test debut at the Lord’s at the age of 16. However, despite trying his best to handle the triple role in the Test team properly, Mushfiqur has to face a lot of criticism for being defensive on the field.
As a person, Mushfiqur is an introvert, which is considered as a negative quality for any leader. At times he tends to become a bit insecure about his role and authority in the team which makes him defensive on the field. In fact, in order to concentrate harder, he often makes things too complicated. On the field, Mushfiqur always gives his 100 per cent, but because of his insecurity and lack of confidence in his own teammates, the team tends to suffer on occasions and that’s what is exactly happening in South Africa.
Both in Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein, Mushfiqur was hoaxed by the pitch. On those flat decks he chose to field when ideally, he should have batted. While justifying the decision at the toss and after the match, he mentioned that he took the decision in order to provide his bowlers the best possible conditions to bowl. However, it was crystal clear that he didn't have confidence in his batting line-up to survive against the South African attack on a fresh Day 1 pitch.
Furthermore, at the end of first day's play in Bloemfontein, when South Africa were 428/3 at stumps, Mushfiqur came to the press conference and revealed he just followed the order of the team management when it came to taking important decisions related to the team. In fact, even his own fielding position is being decided by the “coaches”.
“I am not a good fielder. The coaches wanted me to field in the deep (As Liton Das was picked as a specialist wicketkeeper) because they feel I give away runs or drop catches in the field. I tried to abide by their instruction. You have to do what the team management tells you to do,” he said.
Unfortunately, that is not the ideal way a captain should operate.
As a skipper, it is his duty to take the calls. Yes, coaches and support staff should provide their inputs, but as the leader of the team, Mushfiqur should have the final say in the dressing room as well as on the field. That’s how a captain earns respect from his colleagues.
Instead, the Bangladesh Test skipper has just become a puppet who dances to the tunes of the “coaches”, especially Chandika Hathurusinghe.
He, meanwhile, further went on to admit that he was not being able to motivate the players.
"I think it was my mistake to win the toss. I have been trying to do everything honestly for the past 12 years. But in these last two games, it seems it had been better had I lost the toss. I think it is my personal failure. I am not able to motivate my players or guide my bowlers.”
Well, how can one motivate others when he is not allowed to take his own decisions?
In past few years, there have been several occasions, when the authorities in the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) could have sacked Mushfiqur, but they couldn’t simply because of the lack of options. They tried to convince Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan, but both refused to take to up the responsibility. Mahmudullah’s name was also in the reckoning, but because of a lack of form, there were doubts regarding his place in the team.
However, following the disaster in South Africa, the water has crossed the danger mark and it will be very surprising if Mushfiqur retains the captaincy during Bangladesh’s next Test assignment, which will be against Sri Lanka at home.
However, Mushfiqur still remains one of best Test cricketers Bangladesh have ever produced and the burden of captaincy is simply not helping him. He is 30, and purely as a batsman, he still has plenty to offer to his country. So, it is high time for Mushfiqur to take a call on his cricketing future and I really hope he takes this decision on his own.